You’ve almost certainly heard Fousheé‘s music, even if you’re not fully aware of it. The New Jersey vocalist and guitarist’s track ‘Deep End’, first written in 2018, went viral on TikTok over the 2020 lockdown, with snippets of the song sprawling across the app and spilling out into all corners of social media. She went uncredited for a while before eventually revealing herself as the song’s creator in July 2020, catapulting her into the public consciousness and paving the way for ‘Time Machine’, a sweet, spooling project that showcased Fousheé’s artistic vulnerability and versatility.
In the near-18 months since ‘Time Machine’ was released, Fousheé has been angry. Her new project ‘Softcore’ is bristling with a heavier sound: while it retains some of the soft acoustic moments and touching openness found in ‘Time Machine’, it’s much more influenced by post-punk, metal and hardcore than any of her previous work. It’s a record that treads the line between pure unbridled and terrifying anger and the raw, painful hurt it stems from, like poking a bruise so much that it spreads. “This record is about my anger towards men,” Fousheé tells NME with a laugh from her LA home. “In relationships and in the [music] industry. I would find myself mad at this role I have to play as a woman, and I raged about it.”
‘Softcore’ is expansive, and flips perceived power dynamics on their head. “When it comes to music, people assume that I would make a different type of record — not one where I’m being as aggressive or vulgar,” she says. “Just make pretty music and appear really pretty — it reminds me of Snow White, but I don’t feel like a little Disney princess. I felt like I wanted to reap the benefits that men get to reap by making the music that they make.”
On ‘Die’, Fousheé cusses out an imaginary male other, screaming enticingly about her groupies and drugs and daring him to go faster. On ‘Bored’, she is enticingly sardonic, drawling: “I’m bored / Wanna be my boyfriend?” She tells “everybody [to] suck my dick” on ‘Stupid Bitch’, convincingly claiming masculinity as a state of mind. Though angry, it’s still fun, inviting Fousheé’s audience to let everything out with light-hearted catharsis — or, as she puts it, “we don’t have to choose, both can exist in one place”.
The heavier threads of her influences are obvious on ‘Softcore’, and the change in approach from ‘Time Machine’ is stark. When asked what she was listening to at the time, she replies: “I took a deep dive, so I can’t really say. I was all over the spectrum, and I went back and watched a few documentaries about punk and wanted to learn about the culture of it. So I was all over.” It spills out on the project in a way that feels new, throwing a knowing wink to the likes of Kelis and Rico Nasty while still moving in its own direction. “I went to New York and wrote for a month,” she adds. “I wanted to pave a new lane.”
Throughout our conversation, Fousheé is careful to label ‘Softcore’ as a project rather than her debut studio album. “Maybe it’s commitment issues,” she laughs. “But I really went down a rabbit hole here and committed to one particular mood and era. Whenever I plan to make an album, I want it to be more centred around all the genres and sounds that I’m inspired by and make, and I want to spend a significant amount of time on it and get a lot of instruments involved.”
By contrast, ‘Softcore’ feels far more urgent and specific to a particular time and place; a core feeling that needed to be shared without it becoming an album-esque statement of artistic intent. Even as Fousheé has been performing these songs live while supporting Steve Lacy on his recent North American tour, the anger has fizzled out into something more sustainable, allowing her to zoom out and play around with the project in a more detached way. “I’ve found a new voice and it feels very free,” she explains. “Now I feel really confident and free and relieved. It’s still fun and carefree, but it’s more those types of feelings now.”
Speaking about her experience of touring with her long-time creative collaborator and friend Lacy, Fousheé is effusive and very aware of her role as an opening act tasked with getting a crowd full of Steve Lacy fans on her side (“I try to get them to do a little mini mosh every night!”). She has a vocal feature on ‘Sunshine’, and has a writing credit on Lacy’s smash hit ‘Bad Habit’, which recently topped the charts in the US.
“What I was saying earlier about paving a new lane, I see it in the faces of the little Black girls that are in awe when I come out,” she says about opening for Lacy. “I’ve literally seen some jaws drop. Then, by the end, everyone’s jumping and screaming.”
This is the first time that Fousheé has seen any of her fans in real life, as her viral moment happened during lockdown. She says the effects of that have felt “like insanity”, with everything happening so fast that she hasn’t yet had the time to take it all in. It’s the culmination, though, of years of hard work that has always prized music and creativity above all else: “I didn’t create a back-up plan, and I’m like, ‘Damn, what else am I gonna do?’ There’s nothing. The main thing is making music and creating things that I love, and I commit to that.”
That commitment has opened numerous doors for Fousheé, who has collaborated in recent times with the likes of King Princess, Lil Wayne and Lil Uzi Vert. But what shines through in all of her solo and collaborative work is her integrity and core belief in her art. This lack of a back-up plan has worked for her so far — she’s been able to create her path from nothing and make it fully her own. ‘Softcore’ may be a departure from her previous work, but Fousheé’s instincts are clearly worth trusting.
Fousheé’s new project ‘Softcore’ is out now